The importance of business skills for geospatial professionals

While the use of geoinformation continues to grow as professionals we tend to get stuck on the technology forgetting about how business perceives and understands us. This results in a disconnect between decision makers making investment choices based on measurable benefits and GI professionals making technology choices based on functions and processes.

Will Cadell noted “GIS people are excellent at creating products for GIS people. To de-silo GIS or geospatial (or whatever it is that we are), we should be thinking about how to communicate with those outside our sector. In doing this, we might break the unwritten rules of our guild. But we might also open markets that are both desperate for better data products and willing to pay for them (“ Is the GIS Market Vertically Challenged?”, Forbes 2019).

In the world of learning Cadell’s observation translates to content being offered on GI technology and not the business environment within which the technology is used.

There is no doubt that as geospatial professionals we are well served by courses on software use, and there is no argument that these courses are essential if we are to get value out of our tools but we need to think beyond our silo and heed Cadell’s call. So instead of creating learning solely for technology we need to be thinking more broadly and ask ourselves what business skills we need.

How should we communicate with the decision makers in our organization so we can promote GI use? To make sure decision makers cater for geospatial in their decision-making process we need to be able to present our business case effectively. How do we get the investment we need? To make sure decision makers are willing to invest in geospatial we need to be able to build a cost benefit analysis that quantifies costs and benefits.

I’ll finish with this quote “Look, spatial has never been special. Realizing that will actually make you a better person in the new world economy. Look around you, people are using location without the need of GIS. Don’t be niche, think bigger” (James Fee, Spatial Has Never Been Special, 2012). Ok maybe we are special (we do some pretty cool things!) but as we compete with a multitude of other potential investment decisions, if we want to get the ahead we should have the skills to make that happen.